Archive for April, 2012

Mother-Daughter Travel: It’s Something Special!

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Mother’s Day is a great excuse to talk about taking a “girls” trip. In fact, if you are wondering how to show Mom just how much she means to you, check out this Mother’s Day Sale from with super deals at top resorts.  But, I hope it’s obvious that this sort of trip, between a mother and daughter, doesn’t have to occur once a year around a certain week in May. Oh no – there are 52 weeks in the year that are equally suitable for such an adventure.

From my perspective (I’m both a mother and a daughter), taking the time to travel together is a way to deepen your relationship outside the boundaries of your day-to-day relationship.  It’s nice for daughters to see their moms embracing a new challenge, letting loose once in a while, and sharing a laugh in a moment created for them to share.  Over the years, my mom and I have been to London, San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta, and Savannah…to name a few.  And now that I have two daughters of my own, I can see a multi-generational girls adventure in the near future.

High Tea in London

High Tea at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver with my mom and daughter

I recommend:

  • Choosing a destination where neither of you have ever been but both would physically (a deep sea diving trip may not be the trip your 84 year old mother has always dreamed of) and mentally (Las Vegas with a 5 year old might not be the best decision) be able to handle.
  • Planning the itinerary together so that you all are equally invested in having a great time.  Even with kids and teenagers, giving them a say in part of the trip helps to keep their interest and enthusiasm for the experience.
  • Trying something new together.  Even if you are taking a staycation, there are many opportunities in most cities to experience something different – for the first time.  Whether it is taking in a museum, zip-lining, golf lessons, cooking classes, watching a Broadway show, painting pottery or any other activity that you’ve always wanted to try; it’s in these moments that we can let our guard down and share a collective appreciation for the new activity and bond through the opportunity to go through something new together.
  • Embracing your inner girlie-side. After all, you are taking a mother/daughter vacay – why not take some time for a spa break, a mani/pedi, shopping for shoes and purses at a cool local boutique, or high tea at a fabulous hotel like the Brown Palace in Denver or The Plaza in New York City.

Motherhood, when done well, is the hardest job of them all.  It’s 24 hours a day without retirement benefits.  The pay may be lousy but the benefits package is awesome.  Every hard working mom (however you define the “mom” in your life) deserves some vacation time too.

Happy Mother’s Day to all!



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Sizing up Music Venues: A Guide to the Best Concert Experience

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012
Lauryn Hill Concert

Here's me at the Lauryn Hill Concert having a great time.

There’s really no easy way to size up music venues. With so many, in so many sizes, some might argue that there’s a bigger question that begs to be addressed: Is a smaller, intimate venue better than a massive stadium? Or maybe an arena splits the difference?

For years I preferred the first and leaned toward smaller venues and club shows, including venues like the Warfield, and Mezzanine in San Francisco, or the Fox and Yoshi’s in Oakland. Then last year, two shows swayed my opinion and now I can’t decide between XS, XXL, or somewhere in-between.

U2 at the Meadowlands last year tipped the massive scale, as it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. While I’ve seen my share of stadium shows, it was unreal being among the nearly 100k screaming fans packed in the building. Small venues bring you close to the action but will never replicate the atmosphere in a stadium.

In the medium-sized territory, MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas is one venue that everyone needs to check out at least once. In the past, I had only been to boxing matches there, which in itself is quite the scene. But Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne tour stop in Vegas certainly didn’t disappoint (and it was much better than their stop at HP Pavilion in San Jose) and now it’s up high on my list. It provided a good mix: big enough for a large amount of energy to feed off of for both the artists and fans, not too big that the music gets lost, and almost no bad seat in the house.

As you can tell, I’m undecided. At the end of the day, so much also hinges on things like the act themselves and their preferences for venue sizes, their popularity and following, how far along they are on the tour, and the city itself.

Bringing things back to StubHub, we tend to see economics at play when it comes to venues and prices. Here are some things for music fans to consider:

  • There’s more tickets available in large markets, so it’s no surprise that our top-selling venues include Madison Square Garden in New York City, TD Garden in Boston, Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Verizon Center in Washington DC, and American Airlines Center in Dallas.
  • Typically, the larger the venue, the cheaper ticket prices are. Why? There’s more tickets out there and sellers know they need to price competitively if they want to sell their tickets. Ticket prices for concerts in football and baseball stadiums tend to fall on the lower end.
  • Conversely, smaller venues tend to skew on the higher side. Consider the smaller pool of tickets, and in theory, it’s like you’re buying front row seats if you were at a bigger venue. It’s a best-in-the-house experience, placed in a small setting.
  • Concerts in popular cities like Las Vegas, New York, and Miami often fetch higher prices because part of the experience is to “be seen.” Fans that could care less about that aspect should consider a road trip to see some of their favorite artists. They can take in a new city, check out other venues, and potentially find more attractive prices.
  • Artists performing in their hometown – think The Boss in New Jersey – also tends to be more expensive. Again, consider a road trip if that’s not your forte.
  • Deals can always be had and often at the last minute. Because tickets have no value on StubHub once shows start, sellers will often lower prices as you approach events. One important note: Playing the waiting game works best for larger venues.
  • For smaller venues, I’d recommend buying earlier than later because there aren’t as many tickets and it’s riskier to play the waiting game. We’ve seen some of the best value for events at these venues: Magic Stick in Detroit, Cats Cradle in Carrboro (NC), Warehouse Live in Houston, Mercury Lounge in NYC, The Fillmore in Charlotte.

Now that I’ve exhausted the economics lesson, I’ll sign off and leave you all to decide which direction you would prefer. In a future post, I’ll dive deeper into some summer concert road trip ideas. Whether you’re looking for a thriftier trip or a rock star experience, we’ll make it easy to find tickets. And with some help from the experts at, you won’t have to pull your hair out planning all the travel details.

Joellen Ferrer is Head of US Communications for StubHub, the world’s largest ticket marketplace. She is a fan for all things live music and has been tracking trends on StubHub for over six years, along with traveling around the country to check out all of the hottest live music and sports events. Keep up to speed on ticketing info and find other tips to get to some of the biggest (and smallest) shows this summer by following her at: and @stubhubjo.



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100 Days Until London 2012

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

It's not too late to start planning a trip to London before or after the Olympic Games.(Photo courtesy of

April 18th marks 100 days until the Olympic Games! In NYC, Times Square will be transformed into an Olympic Village complete with athletes, sport demonstrations, and lots more.

The Olympic Games will be held in London from July 27 – August 12, 2012. The Paralympic Games follow shortly thereafter from August 29 – September 9, 2012.

I have always appreciated what an Olympics does for a host-city. The host city rolls out the red carpet giving itself a much needed face list. Typically, an Olympic Games will create new parks and buildings, restore and revitalize the old ones, and improve upon the city’s infrastructure.

This year is no different. The legacy of these games will be felt across Great Britain for many years to come including cross-city transport improvements in London, more training and job opportunities for the UK and the chance for a vast array of businesses to be involved.

So if you can stand the crowds, why not visit London when it is putting the dog on? Or wait until the crowds retreat and visit London in early Fall. There are plenty of other reasons to visit London beyond royal nuptials and international sporting competition.

However, if the Olympics is your destination, here are a few tips to consider before you go.

Attending the Games

You will need to apply for tickets via The only approved official reseller of tickets for the US is CoSport.

Getting Around during the Olympics

Public transport in London will operate for extended hours on Games competition days. Please allow plenty of time to travel to and between venues. All co-host cities have national rail stations with direct links to London. However, some of the game venues are significant distances from London. In some cases, it will take well over four hours to travel to venues from the Olympic Park, which is located about an hour from central London. Exclusive 2012 Games Train Tickets are available to buy from a dedicated National Rail Games Travel website.

Where to Stay

I don’t think that I need to tell you that traveling to any city during a major sporting event is not the most affordable time to be there. Olympic officials and corporations entertaining favored customers already book up the most popular and luxurious accommodations. There are still many hotels in London with availability. According to Olympic officials, there will be plenty of accommodations to support all those visiting this summer but I still say that you shouldn’t wait much longer to make your plans. Be prepared to pay for it, too. Accommodations in London range from hostels to five-star luxury hotels. While some spots are claiming to hold-true to their typical summer rates, many hotels are said to be charging four times as much as the norm. Deals are out there – do your homework and book it when you find a deal. It won’t be there for long.

Things to remember when visiting London

  • Smoking is not permitted by law in enclosed public places, on public transit, in restaurants, pubs, and nightclubs. Individuals may smoke in clearly designated areas only.
  • You must be 18 years of age to consume or purchase alcohol in the United Kingdom.
  • Motorists drive on the left side of the road in the UK. Always look both ways before crossing the street!

Are you planning on visiting London for the Olympic Games? What tips would you add to my list? Let me know in the comments below!



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An Ode to Travel…or Perhaps Travel in the Name of Poetry

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Prepare to spend at least an hour looking at all the poetry books in City Lights Books. (Photo courtesy of

Where oh where do you like to go most? The mountains, the city, or down by the coast? When you lay down your head in a hotel bed, do you hop in with glee or inch in with dread? So many options, so many trips to be taken, so many experiences, so many plans to be makin…

Wondering why I am feeling so poetic? It’s National Poetry Month. Whether you are a fan of a respected poet or merely like to recite a line of prose or two, traveling in verse can be a great excuse to plan your next getaway. Here’s some inspiration to support your next poetic sojourn.

Top Poetry Events Around the U.S.

Spoken word and poetry readings used to be limited to a bar or a coffee house that stayed open late once a week for an “open mic” night. However, the art and the appreciation of it have grown that venues are popping up across the country with talent that is screened and qualified before going on stage, ensuring a great entertainment experience. Next time you are visiting, add some flavor to your travel palate and stop by for a stanza or two.

In San Francisco, CA you can embrace your inner beatnik with a visit to The Beat Museum. There you can see a replica apartment that the Beats would have lived in and pose for pictures with the car used in the upcoming On the Road movie starring Kristen Stewart and based on Jack Kerouac’s famous book. You can also spend a day pouring through the shelves of the City Lights Books founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and made famous after the obscenity trial of Ferlinghetti for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl.

If you take the family to Washington, D.C. this summer for an educational adventure, be sure to visit the American Poetry Museum as you take in all that makes the United States great. It is one of the first museums dedicated to collecting, interpreting, and displaying poetry from American poets.

In Amherst, MA you will find the Emily Dickinson Museum. See the poet’s birthplace and home and read the works of this gifted American poet whose works were widely recognized after her death. And in nearby Pittsfield, MA, you can visit the museum and Arrowhead of Herman Melville.

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore” Bring Edgar Allen Poe’s poetry to life when you step inside The Poe Museum in Richmond, VA.

Know of other poetry gems that can’t be missed? Tell us in the comments below!



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Monday, April 9th, 2012 Amenities Survey



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Buyer Beware: Travel Complaints Taken Head On

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Plan ahead when booking a hotel room to avoid unneeded stress. (Photo courtesy of

I often hear from travelers looking for advice after they have had a less-than-pleasing experience while traveling or when booking their travel plans. For the most part, the complaints fall under a couple of categories: failure to read the fine print, not understanding various policies, and you get what you pay for. To save you the frustration and disappointment experienced by so many others, I thought I’d take a stab at these issues here on Travel Smart Blog.

You Get What You Pay For:

If you have a set budget for your price per night then you need to set your expectations accordingly about just how far your money can go. Depending on your destination, a $ is worth a lot more or a lot less (average hotel prices on map). Let’s take a look at New York City and Las Vegas.

In 2011, NYC was the most expensive city for actual hotel room rates according to the Hotel Price Index™ (HPI®) from with an average price per night just above $200. And that’s sure to go up this year. Knowing that fact, you should expect to pay more even for very average hotel accommodations. If you are only willing or able to spend $70/night, I can assure you that unless you set your expectations accordingly, you will likely be disappointed. In fact, on average when you do a search of NYC Hotels on, even the one – two star hotels average $100/night.

Conversely, Las Vegas had an average price per night of $102 in 2011, according to the HPI. Take a look at these Hotels in Las Vegas from The three-star Circus Circus is $26/night; the four-star Monte Carlo is a mere $50/night. Great, affordable rates at quality hotels! Of course, these prices may fluctuate if you are trying to book during the Final Four or some other popular time but typically your travel dollars can go a lot further in Las Vegas than New York City.

Prices vary from city to city and whether you are traveling at peak season or traveling in the off-season. You need to set your price based on the quality of accommodations that you expect and the experience that you want to have; then try to find one that matches your budget and meets your requirements. You may have to change one of those variables in order to get what you want most.

Star Ratings Explained

I recently read some guest reviews for a one-star hotel in NYC with a $45/night price. Too good to be true? Probably. Defined – one star hotels typically are affordable establishments with clean, no-frills accommodation and minimal on-site facilities. If you choose less than a two-star property in NYC, you may want to pack your own sheets and towels. And that’s not an April Fools joke.

If you are booking online then you shouldn’t complain if the experience you have matches the photos, the description and the vast majority of guest reviews for the hotel that you selected. There is so much information readily available to us that you should have very few surprises at a hotel. That’s not to say that bad experiences don’t happen at good places, because they do and in those situations you should have some recourse .

Let’s face it; even some of the best names in hospitality have been known to contract a case of bedbugs. Safety, cleanliness and convenience should all be considered when you choose a place to stay.

READ the guest reviews. Read the good, read the bad and THEN make up your own mind. If you see the same negative comments popping up in different guest reviews then take those as a warning.

Cancellation Policies:

Another big complaint I see centers on various cancellation policies. Just like your retail stores and their different return policies; hotels, airlines and tour operators all have varying cancellation policies. You have to find out what they are BEFORE you make your reservation and make sure you understand and accept the consequences in the event you need to cancel.

For example, many online travel agencies have their own cancellation policies that are tacked on in addition to whatever the hotels’ own policies are. does NOT charge cancellation or change fees, which is great and very helpful. However, when you book through you need to make sure you understand the cancellation policy of the hotels you are considering. always provides the cancellation policy of the hotel before you confirm your reservation. For most, you can cancel within 48 hours of the reservation without penalty but some are different – so read the fine print.

Cancellation Policy

Free cancellation until 05/06/12

  • If you change or cancel your reservation after 05/06/12 (local time) you will be charged for 1 night (including tax)
  • The property makes no refunds for no-shows or early checkouts.

    Seems pretty clear to me. And – you are reminded again of this policy before you confirm your booking. I know it’s frustrating when things don’t goes as planned but these policies are there for a reason so please be sure that you understand them before you make the reservation.

    Lost Reservations

    Nothing feels worse than arriving at your hotel to be told that there is no record of your reservation. What do you do? First and foremost, keep your cool. Sometimes the problem is as simple as your name having been keyed in incorrectly when the reservation was made. If you have printed proof of your confirmation, this is the time to show it. As long as you can prove you had a reservation for that date at that hotel, the hotel should be able to find it. Always bring along copies of your reservation confirmations to avoid this mix-up.

    If you booked with an online travel agency, such as, call the site right away (one of the benefits of booking through an online agency is that they have a wealth of resources to get you re-accommodated). The sooner they know there’s a problem, the faster they can assist you. Again, have your confirmation number ready.

    Overbooked Hotel

    It’s rare but it happens. Just like the airlines, hotels hedge their bets that not all their guests will show up during their busy times and sometimes overbooking situations occur. If you have a confirmed booking, the hotel is obligated to find you equal or better accommodations at no additional cost to you. If your hotel doesn’t have room for you when you arrive, ask if they have a sister property in town where you can be rebooked at no extra charge. You should also ask for a transportation voucher to get there. And if the property where you’re rebooked isn’t the same standard as the original hotel, ask what they’ll be refunding you. Don’t be afraid to ask for a restaurant credit—what will it take for you to be satisfied? Don’t hesitate to have that conversation.

    3 Tips to Avoid Hotel Booking Issues

    1. For peace of mind before you travel, the best strategy is to call the hotel a few days before your arrival to verify your reservation. Even if you booked through a third party, you can call the hotel directly to confirm this – I do it every time!

    2. If you plan to arrive late, advise the hotel so they’ll know to hold your room.

    3. In addition, always have a printed copy of your reservation confirmation.

    If you have any travel questions, let me know! We’re happy to help you here at Travel Smart Blog.



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  Introduces a Canine-Friendly iPad app

    Sunday, April 1st, 2012

    Today launched a state of the art addition to its popular iPad application; ‘iPaw’ which allows dogs to browse some of the best hotels across the globe from the comfort of their own baskets (or doghouse).

    Dogs (and their owners) will now be able to access the app with one swipe of their paw and view a host of dog-friendly hotels at destinations around the world. Users simply follow the yellow paw in the bottom right hand corner of the iPad app to access the ‘iPaw’ portal and additional features.

    The app is designed to help dogs express their hotel choice in a fun, interactive way. The graphics are specifically designed for dog’s eyesight and the app features engaging background music at a frequency too high for human ears.

    The canine spokespersons at offered a statement saying, “Four-legged friends have been salivating over this app for months. We wanted to offer something to the 11 million dogs living in households across the U.S. who are often left in the doghouse when it comes to booking a vacation. We hope the ‘iPaw’ app will make hotel booking a treat for dogs and their owners.”

    Do you have a pooch at home that won’t be able to keep their paws off this? Let us know in the comments below!

    APRIL FOOLS from!



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